March 3, 2017

Getting Involved in Debian Med

My relationship with Debian Linux extends back over 10 years. At that time Debian's value proposition, vs. RedHat, Slackware, SUSE and others was A. total commitment to the "open-source" philosophy, and B. an unhealthy reliance on perl; de-rigeur in the sysadmin community at the time.

It was also at this time that my then employer was evangelising SSL certs from South Africa's Thawte, rather than the encumbant US supplier VeriSign; the country of origin was very significant due to US export restrictions on strong crypto. VeriSign's subsequent purchase of Thawte for half-a-billion dollars allowed Thawte founder Mark Shuttleworth to become the second tourist into space and also to found Canonical/Ubuntu Linux. The latter is significant to this story as it is based on Debian, and forms the basis for BioLinux.

Over the subsequent years Ubuntu became my desktop OS of choice, although my new employer relied on Alpha Tru64 on their servers. But on the demise of Tru64 they adopted, finally, Debian! Having now moved to Eagle I'm happy to say that our VMWare and AWS Virtual machine OS of choice is Ubuntu JEOS; mainly due to Debian's extensive library of packages and the convenience of the APT package management tool.

It was a real pleasure, therefore, to attend the Debian Med Sprint on bioinformatics in Travemunde (Hamburg) last week. This marked my first foray into developer side of a distro that has served me so well over the years. A significant achievement of the meeting was to bring together maintainers of  BioLinux and Debian Med, both Debian-based. Another theme was marketing/exposure - Although Debian Med packages almost 100 biology applications, there are far more out there that would form valuable additions. Far more than the 74 volunteers can possibly assimilate. This post, therefore, is a call to action for application developers, 'upstream' in Debian parlance, to get involved!

A report of the Debian Med Sprint is available here.

Topics: Bioinformatics